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11. A Study of Damiano Sera Morrow

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To begin with, Miss Morrow was promised to Mr. Marco Marek. I don’t know what their parents were thinking with these names, sounds Italian to me on all sides, but all the same, that’s how it goes. Marco was one of the Wicked, the alpha male. There was an alpha female as well, and then two underdogs, one of each gender. Damiano was a gypsy – she could never be one of the Wicked. There was currently talk around that Marco was sleeping with the alpha female, a girl that none had ever seen, but came to calling her Seven, being that was how many days it took her to achieve her post. Such was the drama of the races.

Yet again, the plot thickens.

Society expectations and allowances of sorts, those all prohibited Marco and Damiano from having a typical relationship. They could never appear together in public, mostly because of her status. She was below him, and that would lower his integrity. He didn’t love her enough to throw the rules out a window. He was determined to have his cake and eat it too. But she was fed up, of the drama, of the madness. She just wanted a simple kind of life, a simple kind of love. Nothing more. She loved the arts, all things creative. She would come to every show Caine played. She always kept hidden, to avoid accusing glances. I tried to figure out how I’d never noticed her before.

When I woke up, she was standing at the window, looking out at the world. She was absolutely breathtaking. How she carried herself, her appearance, her personality, she just felt so familiar, so warm and inviting. She turned to look at me over her shoulder, with an almost tragic look to her. I kept that image locked in my mind, saved, every detail. I stumbled out of the bed and grabbed my camera, snapping a quick shot just in case. I’d work on a recreation later, probably drawing. After I put the camera on the table next to the bed, I crept up and stood behind her, wrapping my arms around her. She laid her head back on my shoulder.

“Listen…” I started.

“Ssh. Just look.”

And I looked. Out the window, a new day was beginning. The fog was clearing slowly, and the brilliant shine of the new morning sun started to appear through the parting clouds. As it came up over the horizon, and vibrant reds and oranges started to sneak over the ground, I could feel the beauty she felt. I was inspired by the sunrise, the range of colors brought forth from it, from her warm body held tight to my chest. She was wrapped in a sheet at the time, as was I. There was no need for conversation – there was no need to sort out the details. I felt like I had been away for a long time and I’d just recently come home. All the troubles of life, every little bit, had faded into the background. All that mattered at this current moment was the morning’s sunrise, and Damiano’s presence.

To give a small history of how girls like her ended up with the gypsies – Damiano is the youngest of three. Her older brother, Jerome, and the middle child, Janus, are both officers of the New York City Police Department, as I learned firsthand. Her parents were both artists, a little bit bizarre, but as kind and loving as could be. Her mother was murdered a few years back hence the elder Morrows developed an interest in law as an effect of that. Her father, unable to deal with his loss, turned into heavy drug and alcohol use. Damiano had no other family that would interfere, so she turned to the gypsies, which were her best friends at the time. They took her in, adopting her as one of their own without a problem. She had been with them for a few years now and had grown very accustomed to her new lifestyle.

The gypsies were artists of sorts. Very similar to the punks that ran the circus, but they weren’t scary. They didn’t live how they lived to scare people; they lived in a lifestyle that accustomed them comfortably. They were more like….Bohemians. They got high, made art, and scraped by in jobs created in their own community. They didn’t leave the community because that could bring in trouble – inviting others. Should someone want to date outside the circle, a whole series of steps had to be taken. If you skipped those steps, the community would consider you an outcast, never assisting you again in any way. It was a very tight knit idea.

Damiano didn’t want to create a ruckus with anyone. She loved her Bohemian brothers and sisters dearly, and would do nothing to hurt them. But she was sick of being hidden, caged like some sort of animal, and treated differently for how she lived. She wanted to be an artist free of rules. I told her about the circus, where everyone was free to do as they wished, yet still be part of the family. I told her about the bar, the secret entrance to get to the freak show, and the tattoo parlor I’d built for the kids to work at. I told her about my upbringing, my proper parents and my stalled art career. I tried to tell her all of this in fifty words or less, to cut back on the ranting, only tell her what I felt she needed, or would want, to know right now. And she seemed considerably interested, especially in the underground back home.

“Do you think they’d let you leave the community on good terms?”

She shrugged. We were curled up in the bed again, watching the rays creep in through the window, getting steadily brighter. “Depending on who I was leaving for. They’ve never been in support of Marco.”

I don’t know how to describe how I could feel so close to someone I just met, someone I just slept with before I’d even learned her name. She had such a feeling to her that pulled you in, made you want to get closer. I thought about Dacien Ransom back home, and how she pulled people in. Dacien pulls people in to manipulate them, to destroy and ravage. Damiano had pulled me in for love, for pleasure and passion and whatever else you can come up with. I wanted to pack her up with me and take her to the city with me, save her from the madness up here, the endless drama. I wanted to save her in the way she was saving me. She was pulling me from my artistic block, from my humdrum life where nothing ever happens. She had a vision, a unique way of seeing, and I wanted nothing more than to stay by her side and see where that vision took us. The problem was explaining this to a girl that was a complete stranger to me shortly ago. Quite the predicament.

The new day seemed like a dream, like Damiano, something vague and slightly familiar. She crept away from me, moving to get dressed again. I stayed where I was, watching her.

“Now what?”

She turned and smiled back at me. “Now I go back home. Where I belong. I’ll be missed after a fashion.”

“When can I see you again?”

As she was pulling pants up over her legs, she leaned in and kissed me softly. “Whenever you dream.”

I laughed softly, getting up to stretch. She was dressed in another few minutes’ time, and making her way out the door. I tried to convince her to stay, to make an appointment to meet again, anything, but was refused on all counts. We were hanging in the doorway, myself leaning on the door, with her leaning on the frame itself.

“Tell me something,” she asked, her eyes searching mine for truth. “When was the last time…”

I shook my head to silence her. “Too long.” I didn’t want to talk about last times of any kind. I didn’t want to think about endings. I wanted to concentrate on beginnings, on fresh starts. I bent to kiss her once more, and she moved swiftly down the hallway, nodding at the occupant of the room next door who’d just opened up to step out. I looked down the hall, meeting Deacon’s gaze. We locked eyes then both turned to follow the fading steps of Damiano. I tried to smile, but it turned out to be a weak grin, a sort of sheepish expression that usually follows a shrug. Deacon’s eyes narrowed, a wide, smug smile slipping across her lips as her mind began to connect two and two. I closed the door abruptly, trying not to slam it too loudly. My body was shaking again.

I moved off to shower, trying to cleanse any concerns out of my system. What just happened felt wrong on some levels, but desperately right at the same time. I never believed in true love until I met Damiano, and at the moment, getting her was the most important thing in the world to me. I would stay here for as long as it took to convince her to join me in the city. I started to mentally prepare a letter to Irish while I showered, thinking of how much would be safe to tell her at this time. I wondered how much the Officers Morrow had been interfering lately, if they’d become a problem for anyone. I wondered if Damiano would tell anyone, if I were in danger of being discovered, if Marco would show up suddenly and beat the life out of me. All these things raged through my mind as I toweled off and got dressed. As soon as I was dressed and fed, I sat down and started writing to Irish. My hand couldn’t be stilled; I was writing a mile a minute about the greatness that was Damiano. I ranted about how I loved her and wanted nothing more than to be with her. I tried to explain all this without seeming like a complete and utter lunatic, but I feel I failed in this measure. When that letter was complete and I’d managed to get all the madness out of my system, I composed another few letters. One was to Shirley and Moe – requesting updates on the business and wishing them well with the upcoming child. Another went to Dusk, congratulating him on the excellent staff he provided, and his recent retirement from the circus. I asked him who would be taking his place and if we could be introduced when I returned. After all that was said and done, I wrote a letter to Sergeant Bishop, asking if there were any new leads in the case that might concern me. I was sure that this gesture would appear pompous, and it would provide them with an address to trace me to, but I didn’t care. I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to see that work was being done. I was sick of my parents’ killer roaming free without a care in the world. After all the mail was written, addressed and stamped, I sat down to relax for a while, to plan the rest of this beautiful new day.

I didn’t leave my room for the rest of the day. I just sat and wrote, drew, whatever it took. I had a new inspiration, I felt like each breath I took was sweeter, that there was a new fire in my blood. There would be no ends to my creative engine. And when I got back to the city, I’d work on setting up a gallery, on putting work on display. I was in the middle of another sketch, my mind racing haphazardly, when I heard my door click open and shut. I looked up for a minute, my hand moving blindly. I no longer needed to see what I was doing – I could keep going nonetheless. Caine stepped into the room, taking a few steps, trying to avoid the papers scattered all over the floor. He made room and sat down at the edge of the bed.

“Hey, I hate to interrupt, since I see you’ve found your way…” his voice was soft, almost brotherly. I’d been staying up here for a while now; we’d gotten closer in some ways. I didn’t want to lie to him, but I didn’t know how he would react to the truth. Caine was a very laid back kind of guy, so I thought he’d handle the truth considerably well. I finished the sketch I was working on, dropped the pencil, and looked up at him.

“This is about Damiano, isn’t it?”

He nodded quietly. “Deacon said she saw her leaving here this morning.”

I nodded, standing and looking at Caine as calmly as I could. He was being rational and honest. This was his neck of the woods, his home. I didn’t belong here. He knew all the rules and restrictions, exactly how everything worked. And he knew the exact dangers that came along with getting that close to Miss Morrow.

“Listen Ed,” he started. “Damiano is…off limits. In more ways than one.”

I put my hand up to silence him. “I know Caine, I know.”

“No Ed, I don’t really think you understand. The last guy that was seen flirting with her in public was found hanging upside down from a rafter in the abandoned warehouse at the end of the races. Just seen with her.”

“So he suffered a bit of embarrassment, nothing too major.”

Caine coughed. “Embarrassment might have been a problem, before the blood drained out of him.”

And the smug smile bled off my face slowly. The light feeling in my chest, my rapid heartbeat, it all faded and cooled down. I wasn’t willing to die for my work, not yet. When I had achieved something great, something worth preserving, then I might be ready to die. But that was a long way down the road. I started weighing options.

“So what are you telling me, Caine? What am I supposed to do?”

He took a deep breath as I began to pace around the room, careful of the scatter of papers. Sketches, short stories, beginnings to longer ones, planning and ideas, all set out all over the place. I felt like the bottom to my stomach had dropped out, like I was falling without ground in sight. I collapsed into the nearest chair, my shaking hands gripping the handles.

“Just keep your head down, and your nose clean, you know? Don’t do anything foolish, and don’t make yourself popular. Just fade to black, you know?”

“You mean, hide out?”

“No. Just don’t draw attention. Ed, the Wicked don’t keep their positions in life based on sheer talent on a motorcycle. They’re dangerous people. That’s why the cops don’t try to bust them. They run everything, the drug circles, they are the real rulers of this place. And everyone knows it. You have gangs in your city. They are our gang. They are the kings of this kingdom. And you have to learn to live with it. Or…”

“Or? Or what, Caine?”

“Or you’ll find yourself hanging next to my brother.”

I coughed. “What?”

“Yeah. My brother. The last guy caught flirting with Miss Damiano Morrow.”

And we were both silent. I couldn’t imagine how he felt – to have lost a sibling and be able to do nothing about it. I imagined that it was some miracle, by the graces of these suburban gods, that he was permitted to live. I envisioned Caine hysterical, his eyes burning, his body jerking as he launched into a brutal fight with them. I could seem him, bruised and battered, as they took turns tearing at him. I could see Damiano pleading for clemency, which was granted after hours of pain. I saw all this in his eyes. Part of why he spent so much time touring. As much as he loved his rural suburbia, his father, the inn, he belonged elsewhere. The pain of the memory of his brother’s untimely end haunted him. I wanted to apologize but couldn’t find the words to express my grief. As an only child, I couldn’t even begin to understand. And yet, here we both were, as men, discussing the dangers of loving this cursed goddess.

“Caine, I’m…”

“Don’t bother.” He looked up at me, a sort of misty look to his eyes. He had been gone for a minute, thinking back, remembering. I got up and walked over, putting a hand on his shoulder. He looked up at me, trying to blink the tears away.

“I’m not yours to keep. What happens to me is my own concern. I thank you kindly for your warnings, and your concern, trust me, it means the world to me. And I’ll consider your words very carefully. But whatever should befall me isn’t your fault. And I want you to know that. Just like it wasn’t your fault what happened to your brother.”

I let go of him and knelt down, packing the papers up carefully. He just sat there, his elbows resting on his knees, his head down, staring at the floor. I resolved that it was time to go home, before I caused any more trouble here. I didn’t want him to worry for me. I didn’t belong here anyway. I belonged back home. He sat on the bed for awhile, thinking awkwardly. I could always feel his mind racing, the emotion being choked back. I sat back in my chair, lighting a smoke, puffing haphazardly. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d had one, but I didn’t want to pack in front of Caine. I didn’t want him to think that he’d driven me away. Then again, he would probably be glad. If he managed to scare me off, it’d be for my own good. He was saving me. From the Wicked. From myself. From life. I couldn’t let myself be saved anymore. I had to make due, and I had to learn to save myself.

After a fashion, Caine got up and let himself out, muttering a few words as he went. I started packing as soon as the door clicked shut. It was raining again, a light rain that comes with bright sunny days. It’s that kind of surreal rain that you can’t believe is real, that you try so hard to will away. But it’s there all the same, and refreshing in some ways. I couldn’t decide if this classified as running away, or running into something. Either way, it was something. I thought about the letters I had written out, which I was supposed to mail sometime today. I decided that I’d mail them all the same. Some people wouldn’t realize I was back in town. The cops would come all this way to find me and find nothing more than a memory. For half a second, for that small moment, I thought I was brilliant. I ran over the list in my head of things to do before I left, goodbyes to say, but I knew that somehow, Caine knew that I was leaving. And Deacon had never noticed me when I lived next door to her in the city, why start caring now about what she thinks of me?

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